My Genderqueer Period
Hi everyone, Lisa here. I'm super excited to share this post from our friend Samson, who offers their perspective as a genderqueer person who has opted for eco / body friendly menstrual products. If this post interests you, you may also want to check out Lunapads for All Genders, All Bodies and Why Inclusion Matters.
In light of my last post, since this is something I've been pondering writing anyway, I figured I'd talk about how I deal with my period, in a physical and psychological way, as a genderqueer person. I feel a little shy talking about sex-specific things; not only is there a shame culture about some of the female-assigned body and its workings, I feel like I'm "blowing my cover" as an androgynous and genderqueer person--like people aren't going to take me seriously if they hear me embracing something so "essentially female" about myself. But you're going to take my identity seriously, right? (This is Samson fixing you with a narrow-eyed glare.)
If you're squeamish about periods, the female-assigned body, or the body in general, you should probably skip the rest of this post. (Even if you're uncomfortable about the idea of you having a period, there are plenty of us who get 'em and are all right with it. So, if you're uncomfortable about the ideas of others having periods, regardless of their sex or gender, I politely suggest you work on getting over that.)
My period isn't a big connection to womanhood or femininity or female-ness for me. When mine started, I understood that male-assigned people didn't get one, and that made me feel solidarity with other women (although realizing that some of them had a much easier time of it cut into that feeling a little). I understood that I had "become a woman." But I didn't feel any mystical connection to it--and I tried to, as I was big into the idea of a/the Goddess around the time I got mine. I tried to celebrate it as a natural part of my human and female-assigned inheritance, as a marker of my fertility, as part of a bond with other women. But to me it was a meaningless, painful, messy, inconvenient thing, and based on my hormones and the weird irregular cycles that I eventually developed, I may not be fertile anyway.
That lack of significance may constitute part of the reason I don't feel a need to reject my period as a gendered thing as I increasingly embrace being genderqueer and androgynous. In fact I'm feeling increasingly less need to reject my body in general (a long post for another time!).
My period has been such an ordeal since it started that I finally decided I was just going to have fun with it, and deal with it the way I wanted to--especially if I was going to rule out hormonal birth control, i.e. probably keep having periods (unless I start taking T).
I've been having increasing skin sensitivity over the last few years, which has made traditional pads and tampons increasingly uncomfortable. I'd always avoided scented stuff, and figured that the rest was pretty much inert--until, after months of increasing irritation in college, I finally went to the on-campus clinic, and a fantastic gyn there gave me a lecture about the sorts of chemicals and plastics that are used to manufacture them (and also gave me a look of horror about the harsh soap I was using on my whole body, bits included).
So... if you can't wear the pads and panty liners that they sell at the store--and if you have to have backup because your tampons, regardless of brand or size or shape, always leak--what do you do? Reusable cloth pads and panty liners.
Problem solved in an eco-friendly, skin-friendly, small-business-friendly, and hilariously fun way. And then, since I was already looking into "alternative" ways to manage my period, I found menstrual cups. If you're making icky-faces like I used to about the idea of using anything except disposable, bear with me. This is what I've come up with:
Reusable panty liners. I originally stumbled over the idea thanks to Lunapads, who also has a great program to provide reusable pads to people in developing areas. (Did you know that in some areas, having no supplies to manage your period and/or no good way to dispose of disposables means you just don't go to school or work during your period? I didn't.) But, after poking around online a bit, I found Randumosity, which is where I get all of mine. Jami runs Randumosity from home, ships to your house, and makes great stuff; you get to pick the cloth pattern for your pads and liners, and she almost always has some unisex/non-girly patterns, if that's an issue. She also has good sales and giveaways from time to time on her Facebook page. Personally, I'm a silly and easily amused person, and for me, this means that at the moment I most want to tear out my uterus with my bare hands, I can put on a panty liner with dinosaurs on it, and smile. Then I just throw 'em in the wash on cold with the rest of my clothes. They don't stain, they don't smell, they don't bother my skin. I'm sold.
The DivaCup. There are other menstrual cups (like the Keeper/Moon Cup, and the Instead, which is disposable and therefore somewhat defeats the purpose, for me), but the DivaCup happened to be locally available. (Reminder: if you can afford to buy these things locally in stores rather than online, it saves on emissions used on individual shipping and packaging, and encourages businesses to keep them on their shelves.) You can read more about menstrual cups in general here; suffice it to say that they are not for the squeamish or blood-phobic, nor for people with problems with insertion. They're cups that sit in your vagina for 8-12 hours at a time, with an airtight seal--for me, that means not having to worry about leaks or changing anything for my whole workday, until I'm back in the privacy of my own bathroom. It took me a couple cycles to get the hang of (they're uncomfortable if you're doing it wrong, if they're too big, or sometimes just uncomfortable for particular people) but I'm sold.
Reusable pads. For the days I don't feel like dealing with the cup, I have some reusable pads from Randumosity.
I saw a post (don't remember where, and can't find it! Drats.) that was encouraging people to share about how they deal with their periods, and the suggestions there were what originally led me to looking into these things. I'm grateful for that.